Friday, September 30, 2011

Marvel History 137: Amazing Spider-Man # 12

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 12
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: May 1964
Commentary:


Well, Peter Parket gets unmasked, but of course no one believes he's the real Spider-Man.  This kind of secret identity trickery is more a staple of the DC Universe, but Stan uses it to the same effect here.  


Jameson is berated by a police officer for withholding information from the law.  It's good to see J. Jonah get a little comeuppance, as he's really been quite the jackass from day one.  

Quick Thoughts:
  • Liz Allen sticks up for Peter in front of Flash Thompson
  • Spidey has a rare victory at issues' end; a date with Betty Brant and a wad of cash
Favorite Panel: Jameson roots for Spidey, a rare sight

Next: Fantastic Four # 26

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Marvel History 136: Tales to Astonish # 54

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 54
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: April 1964
Commentary:



Giant Man and Wasp set off for Washington, DC.  Any ambiguity about the locales of the Marvel Universe from earlier issues is rapidly diminishing, as we're seeing more and more prominent US cities make appearances (with New York being the center of the action, of course).  


The villain roulette wheel lands on crazy dictator this issue (as opposed to mad scientist, money grubber, or conquering alien) and this bozo is promptly overthrown in a pretty run of the mill story.  Right now I'd say Ant Man is probably producing the weakest story lines, despite some great one liners from Wasp.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Wasp tries to discuss vacation plans with Pym, but he gives her the ole Reed Richards (waaaay too busy with science)
  • Wasp references Bond author Ian Fleming
  • Larry Lieber writes and draws the backup story
Favorite Panel:


Ant Man's improvisational skills on display.

Next: Amazing Spider-Man # 12

Marvel History 135: Tales of Suspense # 52

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 52
Writer: Stan Lee & N. Korok
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: 1964


Brief  Summary:


Tales of Suspense 52


Commentary:


Although it's sort of a sidebar on the cover, Black Widow makes her first appearance in this issue.  While I myself realized that most of the characters we've already seen were Stan creations, I thought Black Widow didn't come into play until a little further along in Marvel history. 


Yet she's here in all her glory, albeit with a decidedly less sexy outfit than as per her usual.  She will become one of the primary survivors of the early communist hating villains of the MU. 


Quick Thoughts:
  • Iron Man saves the day at one point by...plugging himself in with an extension cord.  Big plays. 
  • Two Crimson Dynamos bite the dust
Favorite Panel:


While the two of the Dynamos are off getting killed, Black Widow escapes in the beginning of a very successful career. 

Next: Tales to Astonish # 54

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marvel History 134: Strange Tales # 119

Issue: Strange Tales # 119
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers & Steve Ditko
Publication Date: 1964
Commentary:


When you think to yourself, "Boy, I'd really love to strike some good ole fashioned fear into the hearts of men," you probably wouldn't choose "the Rabble Rouser" as your name.  And that's just one of the many differences between you and the ugly Tom Selleck lookalike who fights Torch this issue.


Dr. Strange fights for the souls of a few common thieves in the back up story.  Even though they are common criminals, Strange remains true to his promises to the ancient one, and rises to the men's aid when they unwittingly trap themselves in another dimension.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Spider-Man has a brief cameo where he tries to offer tips on how to handle people hating on ya
  • Torch's emotions flare up (yep, went there with the pun, probably have done so before, will definitely do it again) several times when things don't go his way
  • Rabble Rouser uses technology first used by another villain here
Favorite Panel:


Uh, I don't know if I'd be so blasé about a dude who can set himself on fire and not burn alive. 



Next: Tales of Suspense # 52

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marvel History 133: Journey into Mystery # 103

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 103
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: April 1964
Commentary:


Stan creates a bit of intrigue in the romance department when the Enchantress wanders down the Rainbow Bridge in an attempt to steal Thor's heart.  Nurse Jane Foster walks in at the wrong time, and it's like an episode of Melrose Place all of a sudden (and yes, I realize Melrose Place hasn't been a topical reference for the last ten years or so).  


Also, Odin plans to confront Thor next issue in regards to his love of Jane, as his latest plan to forcibly put an end to his son's feelings blows up in his face.  I'm actually intrigued to see how this one turns out.  


The backup tale tells the story of Thor's involvement of the creation of man, who were made in the image of the Norse Gods.  

Favorite Panel:


Stan and Jack amp up the sex appeal.



Next: Stange Tales # 119

Marvel History 132: Fantastic Four # 25

Issue: Fantastic Four # 25
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: April 1964
Commentary:


Thing refutes on opportunity to return to his normal appearance, stating his reason as Alicia loves him just the way he is.  Ain't love grand?  The logic of this is lost on Reed.


There's a connection between this issue and Avengers # 3, which was the last appearance of the Hulk.  Even without his own comic, Hulk is still well integrated into the fabric of the early Marvel Universe.  Also, Stan does a good job of keeping his chronology of events straight...and then he goes and refers to Hulk as "Bob" Banner all issue.


This is a two-parter, so we've got to wait till next issue to find out how the battle royale between Thing and Hulk wraps up.

Favorite Panel:




You tell me who you think wins round one.

Next: Journey into Mystery # 103

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marvel History Post 131: Daredevil # 1

Issue: Daredevil # 1
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Bill Everett
Publication Date: April 1964
Commentary:


Another month, another all time classic character for Stan Lee.  This time it's Daredevil, the man without fear, sporting his sexy yellow duds.  And how does this new hero make his astonishing debut?!?  He...breaks up a gambling game.


Interestingly enough, the moment on which Daredevil's entire fate turns is when he does a good deed.  By pushing a man out of harm's way, he ends up making contact with a radioactive chemical, losing his sight, becoming Daredevil, blah blah blah. 


And yet, in the case of Spider-Man, it is his inaction that determines his fate.  Spider-Man already has powers when he lets the criminal go who will eventually murder Uncle Ben, but his refusal to do a good deed is what leads him down the path of becoming a hero later on, as he realizes the error of his ways. 


Perhaps the nature of the Marvel Universe is more capricious than we are prone to credit it.

Favorite Panel(s): Look how much Marvel mythos you can establish in just two little panels.



Next: Fantastic Four # 25

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Marvel History Post 130: Amazing Spider-Man # 11

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 11
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: April 1964
Commentary:


Dr. Ock is back, and there's gonna be trouble (hey na, hey na). He gets released from prison for good behavior.  I guess prison sentences were more lax back in the day?

Spidey hits the road for Philadelphia to catch up with Dr. Ock, a city that doesn't see a tremendous amount of action in the MU.  Things don't go so hot once he's there, as Dr. Ock escapes, and Betty Brant's brother takes the dirt nap.  Times are tough for Petey.



Favorite Panel:


Spidey swings through the City of Brotherly Love


Next: Daredevil # 1!!!

Marvel History Post 129: X-Men # 4

Issue: X-Men # 4
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


Professor X notes that this issue marks the one year anniversary since he began teaching the X-Men.  That whole 4 issues = 1 year pace is really not gonna cut it going forward.  


We meet the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants this issue, featuring Toad, Mastermind, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver, all of whom will have important roles in the Marvel Universe going forward, notably the the last two.  This is perhaps the biggest collection of villains we've had in a Stan Lee joint thus far.


Magneto tells the story of how he saved Scarlet Witch from being murdered at the hands of a large mob.  Professor Xavier saves Nightcrawler from a similar fate later on in Marvel history.


Oh, and Professor X loses his mutant powers.  This will be the only time in the history of Marvel Comics that this happens.  Yep.  Right.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Iceman's ice coating "melts" away
  • Scott cuts birthday cake with his optic blasts.
  • Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch seem less evil than the rest of the Brotherhood
  • Xavier and Magneto meet telepathically on a "mental plane"
  • Angel's attracted to Scarlet Witch
Favorite Quote: "Don't cry in your Ovaltine, junior!" - Angel


Favorite Panel:






The X-Men at their leisure before Professor X calls them to action.


Next: Amazing Spider-Man # 11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marvel History Post 128: Tales to Astonish # 53

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 53
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


Well, the Porcupine is back.  Remember him?  Where once he wanted cash, now he just wants to kick Giant Man's ass.  He falls prey to Dr. Doom (or Lex Luthor) syndrome of "once I get rid of my enemy, I will blah blah blah."  I don't know if there's a better name for that syndrome.  Regardless, Porcupine's got it.  He's also got a gun that shoots a flypaper pellet.  So, really, he probably shouldn't be mentioned in the same paragraph as Lex Luthor.


There's also a weird scene where people at a Giant Man and Wasp fan club dress up as enemies of the duo.  Early 60s cosplay.  Yeah.  


This issue also continues the proud tradition of the backup story as told by the Wasp herself.  It's just a matter of time before Stan ditches the sci-fi non superhero backup stories entirely.

Favorite Panel:




Giant Man's rogues gallery...sort of...

Next: X-Men # 4

Friday, September 23, 2011

Marvel History Post 127: Tales of Suspense # 51

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 51
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: March 1964


Commentary:


Pepper Potts robs Tony Stark of a date, as she's trying to keep the man all to herself.  She's got spunk, but lying about your boss's guest book is a pretty big no-no.  Tony outsmarts her in the end, though, sending her on a date with Happy Hogan instead of him.


Happy Hogan gets in on some of the other kind of action this issue, going toe to toe with the villain Scarecrow.  Of course, the heavy lifting heroics are left for Iron Man.



Quick Thoughts:

  • I know Stan loves a lot of melodramatic words, but "triumph" is a big one, especially when describing one of his own comic books
  • The credits ask the question "when does Stan Lee sleep?" which is pretty legit
  • Marvel's version of the Scarecrow looks a whole lot like DC's version of the Scarecrow


Favorite Panel:


Scarecrow plots his revenge. 

Next: Tales to Astonish # 53

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marvel History Post 126: Strange Tales # 118

Issue: Strange Tales # 118
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers & Steve Ditko
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


So, the Wizard, a man of cunning intellect with a penchant for fleeing prison, spends all his time in the prison "workshop," and NO ONE suspects he's probably planning a means of escape?  Not the smartest set of prison guards. 
Fortunately, our man Johnny Storm outdoes them by not identifying that a set of television cameras are fake.  Once again, Johnny's love of the limelight and inattention to detail gets him in trouble.  


A number of these Strange Tales stories have seen increasing focus on not just the Torch, but the rest of the Fan 4.  Torch is still the star of the show, but Reed and the others have started to play a much larger role. 


Meanwhile, Dr. Strange battles creepy mystic aliens.  Average day for him.

Favorite Panel:


Creepy pic of the Wizard in his moment of triumph over Johnny Storm. 

Next: Tales of Suspense # 51

Marvel History Post 125: Sgt. Fury # 6

Issue: Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandoes # 6
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


It's really handy of all the Germans in these comics to talk in English with German accents.  I'd have a harder time following along if it weren't for this.


This story also reminded me just a touch of the film Inglourious Bastards, with people who need to speak German getting injured, and other people trying to speak German, and all that nonsense.  Also, since I've brought it up, Inglourious Bastards is waaaay over rated.  When Quentin Tarantino makes a movie where he can build tension and not kill every single person in the room, I'll be interested again.  


Stan also speaks out against racism once more, which is impressive stuff given that date of publication.  Stan Lee's got a high tolerance for race, and a low tolerance for commies.  

Favorite Panel: The old bulldog makes a small cameo in the MU. 

Next: Strange Tales # 118

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marvel History Post 124: Journey into Mystery #102


Issue: Journey into Mystery #102
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


The villain Zarrko returns (you missed him, admit it) to plague a weakened Thor, who is still struggling with Odin over the matter of loving a mortal.  Zarrko gets Thor to do his bidding, and apparently an immortal like Thor cannot break an oath, which makes our favorite Norse god's life less than ideal.


Also, Thor's hammer seems to be able to do pretty much everything, even when Thor himself is flying half mast, so to speak.  He's flying through time, he's blowing up machines.  Mjolnir can probably pick winning lottery tickets.


In the backup feature, Thor looks like an idiot when he doesn't realize he's gained the power to pick up Mjolnir, his sole desire.  I hate to start this kind of a count, but Thor: 0, Mjolnir: 1 (Mole Man still 0).

Quick Thoughts:


  • In the twenty third century, a master robot controls the planet.
  • Thor can use his hammer to gather atomic particles to destr- yeah buh wha?
  • The Tales of Asgard back-up stories are made into a permanent feature
Favorite Panel: And just keep the bathroom clean.  That's all I ask, bro. 


Next: Sgt. Fury # 6

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Marvel History Post 123: Fantastic Four # 24

Issue: Fantastic Four # 24
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: March 1964
Commentary:


The bad guy in this issue (Infant Terrible) is another of Stan's all too powerful galactic forces, a common foe for the Fan 4.  Sue references at one point that Infant Terrible is even more powerful than Molecule Man.  There's no reference to Mole Man, and that's likely because no power on Earth (above or below ground) can combat him.  


Kudos to Stan for trying to vary his formula in villains, although I think the cure for formulaic super heroics in this case would be more personality, not less.  

Quick Thoughts:
  • Life magazine gets a reference.  How quaint.
  • Some of the early tension between Thing and Richards resurfaces for a brief moment
Favorite Panel:


Yeah, who else is into disembodied legs.  Anyone?  Anyone?

Next: Journey into Mystery # 102

Marvel History Post 122: Avengers # 4

Issue: Avengers # 4
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: March 1963


Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Avengers_4




Commentary:


So it turns out that Captain America got frozen in ice some time ago, and then  Namor goes and accidentally breaks said ice, thus reintroducing a marvel legend to the world.  We also get the story of Bucky's death.  And, without any additional fanfare.


There's also a fun appearance by Rick Jones.  People seem to have this conception that there's too much crossover of certain characters in today's comic books, but it doesn't appear this is a new issue.  If you consider how many fewer superhero comics Marvel was putting out at this time, the Human Torch is everywhere!  He's gotten bigger stats (percentage wise) of appearances than modern day Wolverine!



Quick Thoughts:
  • Stan Lee suggests saving this issue.  Wise man, him.
  • Captain America appears emotionally unstable, first thinking that Rick Jones is Bucky, and then deciding that he's more or less close enough to fit the bill
  • Cap's weight is given at "two hundred pounds"
  • How do you explain the legend of Medusa?  Why, it must be an alien!

Favorite Panel:


Cap laments Bucky's death.  Bucky, he's one of those characters that'll NEVER come back from the dead.  Oh wait...

Next: Journey into Mystery # 101

Monday, September 19, 2011

Marvel History Post 121: Amazing Spider-Man # 10

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 10
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: March 1964

Brief Summary:


http://marvel.wikia.com/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_10

Commentary:


The Enforcers give us a glimpse of organized crime in the MU, but they clearly don't have the lasting power of some of the later creations like the Kingpin.  


J. Jonah Jameson's personal feud rages on.  He is engaging in the worst kind of journalism time and again, throwing out bogus accusations and refusing to see the other side of a story.  Stan addresses this in a monologue Jameson gives at issue's end, where he reveals the reason he really hates Spider-Man is because of Spidey's selfless nature, a stark contract to Jameson's own greed.


Quick Thoughts:
  • Pete suspects Flash Thompson of "having a heart."
  • Peter gives blood, and in doing so, does not pass on his superhero powers.
Favorite Panel:

Spidey swinging through the city.


Next:

Avengers # 4




Sunday, September 18, 2011

Marvel History Post 120: Tales to Astonish # 52

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 52
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers
Publication Date: February 1964

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_to_Astonish_52

Commentary:

This issue features the Black Knight as the villain, and no, he does not have all of his limbs hacked off.  He is, however, a scientist.  Stan's villains are either scientists who have lost their way, or petty thieves who are lucky and gifted with incredible powers.


Giant Man makes reference to the fact that Wasp surely knows how he feels about her, but I'm not sure how aware Wasp is of anything. 


Quick Thoughts:

  • Giant Man reaches out and grabs several men's guns before they can fire them.  He's got some reach.
  • Tales of the Wasp continues this issue when Wasp tells a story after visiting an orphanage.
Favorite Panel:

More hilarity from Marvel's current number one couple!


Next:


Amazing Spider-Man # 10

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marvel History Post 119: Tales of Suspense # 50

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 50
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: February 1963


Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_of_Suspense_Vol_1_50




Commentary:


We find here the first appearance of the Mandarin, who, despite becoming a huge nemesis of Iron Man, looks like a bit of a tool here.  


The love triangle between Stark, Happy Hogan, and Pepper Potts continues to develop, although Stark more or less remains unaware of its existence.  This should prove interesting further on.



Quick Thoughts

  • Happy Hogan lashes out on another employee, and is almost fired by Stark in return
  • Iron Man calls Mandarin a weak apology for Genghis Khan. 
  • We get a shot of the Mandarin's famous rings

Favorite Panel:


Pepper really likes Happy Hogan.  No, really.

Next:


Tales to Astonish # 52

Friday, September 16, 2011

Marvel History Post 118: Strange Tales # 117

Issue: Strange Tales # 117
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers (first story), Steve Ditko (second story)
Publication Date: February 1964


Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Strange_Tales_117




Commentary:


The Eel returns after getting a pounding from Torch.  He gets out of jail the, uh, hard way, as he has paid his debt to society.  I must say, though, that five issues of Strange Tales doesn't exactly seem like a long sentence. 


Of course, the Eel returns to his old tricks, and Torch has to take him down.


In the back up story, Dr. Strange fights Baron Mordo again.  Strange could use a supporting cast any issue now.  



Quick Thoughts:

  • Torch reads an issue of the Fantastic Four comic.

Favorite Panel:


Dr. Strange pulls the ole mystic switcheroo.  


Favorite Quote: "I'll bet I'm a livin' inspiration to any chicks who are watching!" - The Human Torch.  

Next:


Tales of Suspense # 50

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marvel History Post 117: Journey into Mystery # 101

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 101
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: February 1964

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Journey_Into_Mystery_101

Commentary:

Thor's brooding about not being able to marry Jane Foster continues, and his Avengers teammates step in to see what the deal is.  A nice bit of restraint on Stan's part to not have the rest of the Avengers immediately enter combat with Thor, as so often happens with Marvel heroes when there is a dispute on, well, pretty much anything.


Odin isn't impressed with Thor's love troubles, and halves Thor's powers.  He also forbids him from returning to Asgard until he gives up Jane.  


This issue also ends on a cliffhanger, so it appears that Stan will start using the two part story more often here on out.


Quick Thoughts:

  • Aw, yeah, Zarrko is back!
  • Loki seems to have returned to favor enough for his father to start listening to him.
Favorite Panel:

Thor vs. Stringer -- I mean, Heimdall, on the Rainbow Bridge.  


Next:

Strange Tales # 117

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Marvel History Post 116: Fantastic Four # 23

Issue: Fantastic Four # 23
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: February 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Fantastic_Four_23

Commentary:

Reed is haughty with the other members of the team, prompting them to suggest that someone else lead the Fan 4. It's good to see the bickering among Marvel's first family hasn't completed died down by issue 23.  


Torch busts out of an asbestos rug, thus providing hope that his days of being defeated by asbestos are drawing to a close.  This hope is quickly dashed when he's trapped in a car lined with it.


Doom almost kills the team by using a solar wave, which instantly transports them to outer space.  This is a rather substantial failure, as Doom himself gets thrown into the vastness of space.  Stan doesn't try to obscure the fact that Doom will be back, though, mentioning it in the final caption box at the issue's end.


Favorite Panel:


Good friends at play. 


Next:

Journey into Mystery # 101

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marvel History Post 115: Amazing Spider-Man # 9

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 9
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: February 1963


Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_9




Commentary:


This is the first time we see Aunt May sick.  This is a recurring theme in Spider-Man's life, as he will do anything to keep Aunt May (who has been ancient for the last fifty years!) healthy.  


J. Jonah Jameson also continues his usual routine of bashing Spider-Man, this time accusing him of being the same person as Electro.  He has this printed as fact in the Daily Bugle.  This makes me wonder how the Daily Bugle is perceived as a newspaper within the MU.  Is it the New York Times, or more the equivalent of a gossip magazine?  It has to be a trash mag, right?


Of course, Peter doesn't help his cause, turning in conspicuous photos of Spider-Man in order to get money for his aunt.  



Quick Thoughts:

  • The illustrations of Electro's electricity power could use some work.
  • Flash almost reaches out to Peter Parker, but when he gets the cold shoulder in return, it's all hate again. 
  • It appears there's a secret in Betty Brant's past that she chosen not to tell Pete yet.

Favorite Panel:


Peter Park in the lonely rain of the city.  I suppose the "Phooey" exclamation takes some of the gravitas out of this image.

Next:

Fantastic Four # 23